Preparing for Your First Job Interview
As you prepare for graduation, you are no doubt preoccupied with finding a job or some type of employment for your post-graduate life. For some students, the job-search process begins before graduation, while others choose to wait until after graduation. No matter what you are planning to do or when you think you might start this process, there are a lot of things that you need to keep in mind as you look for and apply to jobs.
Many students struggle with different parts of the job-search process, but one area that seems to trip most recent graduates up is the interview process. Many recent graduates have not had a job interview, or, if they have, it was very informal, and now they may feel daunted by the prospect of interviewing for a more high-powered position. However, do not let a lack of interview experience overwhelm you. Below, you will find several tips and different ways to begin preparing for your first interview.
Student Success and Career Services Centers
In today’s job market and economy, many students are wondering, “Will I get a job after college?” This is a fair question, but one of the best ways to deal with the insecurity of the current job market is to be fully prepared for what awaits you after college. Your job search after college may be difficult and frustrating, but one of the best ways to prepare for that process is to use your school’s student success center or career services center. Almost every campus or school has an office that is designed to help students find jobs and prepare for the application and interview process that they will face after graduating from college. In these offices you can expect to find helpful information and a staff that is devoted to helping you.
Assistance finding the right job: One of the most difficult parts about the job application process is finding the right job for you. With the help of someone at your school’s career center, you can learn where to look for job postings relevant to your desired field(s) and how to then narrow down those postings to identify jobs that you are qualified for and would enjoy.
Practice interviews: One of the best ways to prepare for an interview is to practice with someone. Many career centers offer practice interviews with career counselors. You will receive guidance in how to behave and then evaluate your performance. Practice will help you feel more comfortable with interviewing when the real thing rolls around.
General application process information: For some students, the interview process is not the only thing they do not understand. Some students need help understanding the entire job application process and how to begin. There is no shame in this, and students should not be embarrassed to approach someone in the career services office for help and guidance when it comes to the application process.
Learning how to talk about yourself: Talking about yourself comes naturally for some people, but that just is not the case with everyone. However, part of the interview process requires you to talk about yourself and your accomplishments. In these offices and practice interviews, you will have the opportunity to learn how to talk about yourself to demonstrate your viability as a candidate.
Questions to Be Prepared to Answer During Your Interview
One of the best ways to prepare for your first job interview is to know what kinds of questions will be asked of you. The questions below are fairly standard interview questions, so review them and come up with brief answers for each.
What are your expectations of the job? Talk about what you expect from the job in terms of work, your goals, and what you can bring to the company.
Can you provide examples of past work experiences that have been challenging and how you handled those situations? It is very important to be honest about how you handled this situation and tell what you learned and gained for the experience.
What did you like and dislike about your previous job? Do not complain about your current or last job too much during the interview. It is best to keep these lists to one or two items.
What are your greatest weaknesses and strengths as an employee? Be careful how you answer this question. Do not say that you work too hard or are too much of a perfectionist. These answers may induce some eye-rolls. Instead, be honest and then focus on how you are working to improve on your weaknesses.
Why are you leaving your current job, or why did you leave your last job? Do be honest, but do not focus on anything negative about your previous employer or company. Your potential employer does not want to hear you badmouthing anyone, because that suggests you would do the same to them. Give your answer, and then talk about your optimism for the position at hand.
Why should we hire you? Your answer to this should reference your relevant experience, your prior accomplishments, and any character traits that recommend you for the position.
Why do you want to work here? Be honest about what really draws you to the position and the company.
What are your goals both in life and in work? In this case, you should be thinking slightly more long-term. Most interviewers want to know what your goals are for the next five years, so give this one some thought before your interview.
Questions to Ask During Your Interview
Most interviews will wrap up with the interviewer asking if you have any questions. You should always have a few questions ready, so, as you do your research, jot down any thoughts or questions you come up with. Do not ask about anything that is clearly outlined on their website, and do not ask about salary or benefits. Here are a few examples of standard questions you can ask.
What is the work environment like in the office (or wherever the job is located)?
What is the manager of my position like?
What is the typical day or week workload like for this position?
What kind of growth or advancement could I expect to have while working at this company?
What kind of changes or improvements do you hope I bring versus what the old employee exhibited?
What types of challenges could I expect to face in the next three months if I were hired?
Other Helpful Tips
Preparing for your first job interview, and every job interview, can sometimes be a time-consuming and tedious process. However, if the job is important to you and you really want it, then the work and effort you put into it will be worth it. Finding a job after college can be difficult, but with the right skills, the know-how, and the effort, you can find work. Preparing for your first interview will take time and, as you are preparing, here are a few other helpful tips that you should keep in mind.
What to Wear to Your Interview: Clothing communicates a lot about a person. When you decide what to wear to an interview, consider what certain items of clothing say about you. A good guideline for dressing for an interview is to dress for the job you are applying for. For many people, this may mean a suit of some kind. Never show up to a job interview in a pair of jeans or a t-shirt.
Research: In order to sound intelligent about the specific job position and the company in which you are trying to find a job, you will need to research. Start by looking up the company’s mission statement, values, and history and then move on to learning about any products or services they offer, who some of their bigger clients are, and who their biggest competitors are.
Following Up: No matter what, it looks great if you follow up on your interview. Whether it is a phone call, an email, or a written thank-you note, a follow-up is professional and impressive. Simply thank the person who interviewed you for their time, say that you hope to hear from them soon, and add that they should not hesitate to let you know if you can answer any more questions.
Turn Your Phone Off: Before you go into an office or a building to have an interview, turn your phone off. In fact, it might be best if you simply leave your phone in your car. It would be very unprofessional to have your phone go off in the middle of an interview. It also creates a negative first impression, which could lead to you not getting the job.
What to Bring with You: When you go to a job interview, you really do not want to take many things in with you. In fact, you want to take as little as possible. Here are some things you should consider bringing with you: a few copies of your résumé, a copy of your cover letter, a pen, and a small pad of paper. You will be able to hand your résumé to anyone that has not seen it, and with a copy of your cover letter in hand you will be able to make sure you list the same types of qualities during your interview as you wrote in your letter.